[This story was originally published on 27 July 2019 and was updated on 9 March 2020.]
It’s 100 second to midnight on the doomsday clock, and the world’s wealthy are taking note.
Used to track how close the world is to destroying itself, the clock is the closest to midnight it has ever been, due to a combination of nuclear and climate change risks.
And now, as coronavirus extends its grip on the planet, the richest people in the world are seeking ways to get early access to vaccines, and others are fleeing to doomsday bunkers.
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“Resources like money and transportation and information give people head starts on protective and preventive measures, and can help create more comfortable scenarios for people to cope with disasters,” Jewel Mullen, an internist and epidemiologist who was commissioner of Connecticut’s Department of Public Health told Bloomberg.
“That’s where you really get to see disparate needs.”
While the words “doomsday preppers” conjure up images of stockpiles of tins of food, tin-foil hats and walls of guns, the reality for the world’s richest is very different.
Vivos is one supplier of luxury bunkers, and it has seen demand skyrocket, blaming the “onslaught of threats”.
“People are sensing that all hell is about to break loose, from North Korea to the Middle East, the potential of WW3 with Russia and China.
“Many foresee the very real potential for an economic collapse, a deadly virus, asteroid strikes, and major Earth changes potentially caused by Nibiru/Planet X.”
According to Vivos, a “life-assurance shelter solution” is a must-have as the world remains in its current state.
One of its shelters, Vivos x Point in South Dakota has 575 private bunkers which link to a communal compound.
Those who purchase the bunker can choose how to kit them out, although some spend up to US$200,000 on high-end finishes, in addition to the US$35,000 price per bunker.
The Oppidum is another billionaire bunker, and also has the unusual title of the largest billionaire bunker in the world.
And, it’s pretty fancy.
“The uniqueness of the bunker lies in the fact that it combines state-of-the-art security with luxury and comfort,” the former chief of the military intelligence service of the Czech Republic, General Andor Šándor said.
Located in the Czech Republic, the compound lies on a 30,000 meter squared plot of land. Construction on the compound began in 1984 during the Cold War, however, has “never been more relevant”.
According to the Oppidum, residents will be able to live there for up to 10 years without requiring external supplies and is stocked with good, water, medical supplies and communications facilities.
Rising S Company is another bunker supplier, with a slogan of: “We don’t sell fear. We sell preparedness.”
At US$8.35 million, its most expensive bunker features a gym and health center, sauna, swimming pool, bowling alley and media room.
“These underground shelters couple both practical, self-sustainable living with lavish aesthetics and the comfort of modern living,” Rising S Company describes.
“This spacious underground bunker is completely customisable with limitless options just like the rest of the luxury series but the Aristocrat comes loaded with game rooms, sauna, gym, media room, bowling alley, gun range, and a swimming pool bringing the term “luxury” to new underground heights.”
Who is actually buying these bunkers?
Bunkers weren’t an unusual addition to a home 90 years ago, with homes in Sydney still going to sale with bomb shelters attached.
But they’ve had a resurgence in recent years with even billionaires like Bill Gates rumoured to own a bunker beneath his homes in Washington State and California.
Gates has spoken openly of his concerns about a global epidemic, warning it will kill “tens of millions of people in a short time”.
He’s described this threat as the thing keeping him up at night.
But it’s not just Gates. According to Bloomberg, seven Silicon Valley entrepreneurs have purchased bunkers in New Zealand from Rising S Co., with New Zealand favoured for its relatively remote location.
Is a global crisis that likely?
The World Economic Forum has warned that while extreme weather events and a failure to mitigate climate change are the most likely risks to the world, the use of weapons of mass destruction would have the biggest impact.
However, the rapid spread of disease, radioactive spills, large-scale involuntary migration, water crises and major biodiversity loss also have the potential to devastate the planet.
“The world is facing a growing number of complex and interconnected challenges,” World Economic Forum president Børge Brende said.
“In isolation, these are daunting challenges; faced simultaneously, we will struggle if we do not work together. There has never been a more pressing need for a collaborative and multistakeholder approach to shared global problems.”
The world also faces a threat in the form of coronavirus, which has now spread to every continent bar Antarctica and killed more than 3,000 people with nearly 90,000 infected.
The World Health Organisation has said the virus is not yet a pandemic, but represents “uncharted territory”.
“We have never before seen a respiratory pathogen that is capable of community transmission, but which can also be contained with the right measures,” the WHO’s Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
The coronavirus panic has nevertheless triggered havoc on global markets, and seen supermarket shelves stripped of items like toilet paper and hand sanitiser as fears of extended quarantine periods grow.
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